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EGYPT'S MOST FAMED FAKIR             117
not for a moment suggesting that anyone should practise this, because without the long and proper training requisite such unguided experiments would simply be foolhardy and dangerous. When such pressure is combined with a concentration of thought on the state of losing consciousness, as well as with a complete relaxation of the muscles and nerves; when all this is followed by a complete swallowing backwards of the tongue and a brusque inhalation of air, rigid cataleptic coma is sure to supervene. And then, for about twenty-five minutes afterwards, the flesh automatically will become totally insensible to pain, no matter how intense, how atrocious the latter ought to be/'
"What are the nerves upon which you exercise pressure?"
"They are the main carotid arteries serving the head, the hypnotic centres of the temples, and the pneumogastric nerves. But, as I have said, these are not to be played with. Anyone who tried to compress the carotids, for instance, and succeeded in drawing his blood away from the brain, would most probably find a buzzing produced inside his head through the blood leaving the nape of his neck; he would fall backwards helplessly, and inevitably he would faint. I can do this quite safely because I have been trained since childhood by experts."
"And the tongue swallowing------?"
"Ah, that, of course, you have seen in India, among the Yogis. Even so early as when I was a child of four months old, my father began to turn my tongue back with his finger. The result was a kind of convulsive fit. When the latter became too violent it was a sign that the practice had been overdone and that it was necessary to stop it for a while. To-day, I can swallow my tongue backwards with ease; though I still sometimes experience difficulty in returning it to its normal position and have to thrust it forward with my fingers. Your Hindus occasionally indulge in tongue-lengthening exercises in order to be able to perform this difficult feat of curling the tongue back and sealing the windpipe; which also prevents the entrance of dangerous insects,1 or even germs, whilst the body is lying helpless underground."
11 remember now that Brama, the Hindu Yogi in my book A Search in Secret India, who had studied along similar lines to Tahra Bey, once told me that any Yogi who undertook to be buried alive for a fixed period would refuse to be buried in a place teeming with the destructive little creatures known as white ants, which are capable of eating through wooden coffins and devouring the entranced body.